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Attraction of the week: Fortress Explorations at Tokyo DisneySea

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Published: January 14, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Some of my favorite theme park attractions don't offer a narrative -- instead, they offer well-themed spaces that inspire your imagination and invite you to become a participant in your own story within that time and place.

Think of Dave Cobb's wonderful story about the high school kids cosplaying their homework at Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Great theme park environments draw you out of your world into theirs, allowing you to live a fantasy life that, for a few moments at least, seems every bit as real as the world you left outside the park's gates. No theme park environment has done that for me more thoroughly than Fortress Explorations at Tokyo DisneySea.

Tokyo DisneySea

With the sailing ship Renaissance docked at its side the citadel home of the "Society of Explorers and Adventurers" (check out the acronym) offers 10 immersive scenes and displays, which you can explore at your own pace. Allow me to repeat a few paragraphs I wrote about this attraction a little over a year ago:

Fortress Explorations

Inside this citadel, you'll find 10 individual exhibits, from a pendulum tower…

Pendulum tower

…to an alchemy laboratory…

Alchemy Laboratory

…to my favorite, the Chamber of Planets.

Chamber of Planets

This is a cathedral to astronomy, designed with exquisite detail, in tribute to an era when science stood up superstition and showed humanity a more enlightened way. The planets surround our sun, with the heavens painted on the ceiling above. Extending from the pedestal are several arms with handles, with which you can turn the planets in orbit around the sun. Alone with the solar system, I spent several minutes literally making the Earth move.

My most sublime moment in a theme park has been those times I stood on the island-side dock of an otherwise empty Tom Sawyer Island, at sunset in the Magic Kingdom, watching the lights come on in Frontierland. Thousands of people would be in my view, but I stood alone, separated from them by the waters of the Rivers of America - alone in a very public place during that graceful moment when day slipped into night.

I thought of that while standing inside the Chamber of Planets, enjoying another sublime moment, alone with all eternity.

Wander through and around the rest of the citadel, and you'll find cannons, an explorer's hall, an illusion room, a navigation center, a camera obscura, a sundial deck, and a replica of daVinci's Flying Machine. The citadel is also home to Magellan's Restaurant, one of the finest theme park restaurants in the world.

Magellan's Restaurant

Click through for larger images of the map and guide to Fortress Explorations that DisneySea makes available to all visitors:

Map of Fortress Explorations

Welcome to Fortress Explorations

By creating a space that made me -- and countless other visitors -- fall in love with science and discovery all over again, Fortress Explorations well earns a nod as an Attraction of the Week.

Readers' Opinions

From Tony Perkins on January 15, 2013 at 7:31 AM
That's a simply sublime theme park attraction, so immersive and fun to explore.
Next time you're in Tokyo, visit the Studio Ghibli Museum, I think you would enjoy exploring it.
From 206.29.182.166 on January 15, 2013 at 9:00 PM
Perfect example of how a great theme park attraction can exist without any movie franchise as the basis of the theme. This is exactly the type of attraction that Walt would've built, such as Tom Sawyer island and the Swiss family Robinson tree house.

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